How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

July 18, 2016

Summer is here with record temps across the country, and with a lot households having some sort of air conditioner, it’s the most effective way to escape the sun. As you are unwinding in your comfortably cool home or office, grateful that your air conditioner functions, let’s take a peek at how a normal central heating and cooling system works.

The Basics

Your air conditioner operates the similar to your refrigerator, but obviously rather than keeping a small space cool, it has to effectively provide cooler air to your whole home. Both use a refrigerant that adapts easily from liquid to gas, back to liquid again. In your air conditioner, the refrigerant is on a constant loop from the exterior to the inside of your home. It goes into the house as a sub-cooled liquid that evaporates and gathers or takes in heat from the air in your home, expands back into vapor, then heads to the outside condensing unit where it dissipates the heat and is changed back to a sub-cooled liquid.

The Components

Your AC system is created out of four main parts: an evaporator coil, a compressor, a condensing coil, and an expansion valve or metering device.

The piece where your refrigerant evaporates from a sub-cooled liquid to a super-heated vapor is called the evaporator coil, which may be inside your home, in your attic, or situated in the garage. As warm indoor air is blown throughout the cold evaporator coil, heat is removed from the air…and the cooler air is blown within your indoor space.

From the evaporator coil, the now super-heated vapor refrigerant flows to the compressor based in your outside condensing unit. The compressor raises the pressure of the vapor until it shifts into a hot, high pressure vapor. The now super-hot vapor goes into the condenser coil where less hot air blows by the coil, moving heat to the outdoors, and changes the refrigerant to a sub-cooled liquid. The sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is returned to the indoor evaporator coil where, through an expansion valve or metering device, the process is redone.

Your air conditioner is a constant loop of processes. We realize the important thing to you might not be how your AC operates, but that it’s functioning successfully. If you’d like to think about the process or just about remaining cool, give our experts a call at 334-245-4748. We will team up with you and the laws of physics to confirm you cool this time around.